Monday, December 4, 2023

World cup excitement reflects growing popularity of cricket in Windsor | CBC News

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This Sunday, a local Windsor cricket team came together to watch this year’s Cricket World Cup and celebrate their love of the game.

Debanjan Banik, captain and an opening batsman for Vulcans Cricket Club, says the growth of cricket in the community has been fantastic to watch.

“When we started playing three years back, there were nine or 10 teams,” says Banik, who also helps with the administrative work of the team.

Now, Vulcans is one of 22 teams in the Windsor Essex Cricket League, with roughly 400 players participating.

The rise of the sport’s popularity has been helped by Windsor city council.

When Vulcans first entered the league in 2020, there were only two cricket grounds in the city. Soon, there will be four, as council announced they would use part of a $100,000 investment in Derwent Park in Forest Glade to build a full-size cricket pitch.

Vulcans also counts WFCU Credit Union and J.P. Wiser’s as its sponsors.

“All of them have been so active and so prominent to help us and make this sport a bigger deal in this town, especially in this town where not too many people know about cricket,” says Sanam Mehta, wicketkeeper and financial secretary of the club.

“When I’m talking to my colleagues at work, they’re all like, ‘Wow, you play cricket and you have 400 players playing it. That is surprising.'”

Banik says the team is actively recruiting the younger members of the local community to try and keep the game growing in Windsor-Essex.

“We are an aging team at this point,” he says. “But we want to make sure all the younger people that are coming in for their undergrads or even for their masters; we’re making sure that they’re introduced to cricket. We did not know cricket was happening in Windsor for a very long time.”

Debanjan Banik is the captain and an opening batsman with Vulcans Cricket Club, who also helps with the administrative work of the team. He says they’re trying to recruit younger players to help cricket become more popular in Windsor-Essex. (TJ Dhir/CBC)

Mehta says the team is made up of players predominantly from India, but there is still diversity within the team.

“There are players from Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, everywhere,” he said.

None of them knew each other before they formed the club in 2020. Now, they are all very close.

“We are a family, and not just because of cricket,” said Banik. “If anyone had to call me up at 3 a.m. to just have a discussion with them, we would all be here.”

A man with black hair wearing a blue jersey and face paint
Sanam Mehta is the wicketkeeper and financial secretary of Vulcans Cricket Club. He says the team’s sponsors have been instrumental in helping the team grow the popularity of cricket in Windsor-Essex. (TJ Dhir/CBC)

Such is the bond between the players and their families that they all gathered in the basement of Mehta’s home in Belle River to watch the final between India and Australia on Sunday.

21 people gathered in the basement, all cheering on the host nation India. They were rooting for the team to win their third title, and their first since 2011, which they also won at home.

Every time India picked up a wicket early in the Australian innings, the volume in Mehta’s basement rose to an eardrum-piercing level.

Understandably so, given each wicket brought India closer to victory.

Australia dominates India, wins sixth title

But the good times wouldn’t last long for Vulcans. Or for India.

In what became a one-sided match, Australia won their sixth Cricket World Cup with a six-wicket victory.

After India set a low total of 240 runs at Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium, Travis Head led the chase by scoring 137 runs, becoming just the seventh player to score 100 runs in a World Cup final.

As Head and his strike partner Marnus Labuschagne kept piling on the runs, the mood in Ahmedabad and Mehta’s basement dropped.

Head was dismissed with what became the penultimate delivery in the match, but any hope of an Indian comeback was already long gone by then.

When Head was dismissed, only a few people in Mehta’s basement cracked a sarcastic smile — a massive change from the loud yelling of the earlier Australian wickets.

Just one delivery later, Glenn Maxwell put India out of its misery and scored the winning runs.

At this point, all the Vulcans players and their family members decided to leave for home, too tired and sad to watch the post-match ceremony.

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